A lot of Christians, especially evangelicals, would disagree with evolution. The logic being that a world such as ours with all its teaming life demands a Creator. One simply cannot throw a bunch of matter together and come up with what we have today. It just isn’t possible, or so goes the argument—and I quite agree, but this is not a blog against evolution. My point in bringing this up is this: Peter sends an epistle to all the churches in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, which covers approximately sixty percent of modern Turkey. If we were speaking of our modern age with nearly instant communicative abilities etc., then perhaps one could logically believe all these churches could be undergoing a common trial without there being a conspiracy behind it. However, this is the first century AD we are reading about, and Peter sent his epistle to address the common problem of a fiery trial of faith affecting generally everyone in all the churches in at least five different Roman provinces (1Peter 1:7). Does anyone believe this is not the result of a conspiracy?
If it was a conspiracy, who would have been the most likely candidate for initiating the trouble? Remember, up until Peter’s epistle (cir.62-63 AD) Rome has yet to single out Messianic believers to persecute or otherwise try to destroy them. The fact is, the Jesus movement is the ONLY messianic movement within 1st century Judaism that was not thought to be an enemy of Caesar! Every other messianic movement was aggressively sought out and destroyed by the Roman procurators in Judea. One of the largest churches in the Empire was at Antioch, the capital of Syria where the Roman governor was headquartered in the east. In fact, there is some thought that it was the Roman government at Antioch that first began calling believers in the Jesus’ movement Christians! So, it isn’t like they were unaware of Christian activity; they merely understood the Messianic sect as a non-political movement, having no threat to Caesar.
Therefore, if Rome was not directly responsible for the trial of faith that had engulfed the churches to whom Peter wrote, who could possibly be responsible or could it, after all, be a freak coincidence? Well, I have to wonder, if perhaps a dozen or two fires broke out in a 300 mile radius, and all of those fires just happened to burn government structures, does anyone believe it would have been the result of random acts of violence, or should we look for a common source? What if the structures were religious institutions of the same faith and denomination? If something widespread occurred that seemed organized and looked like it was planned, I am simple enough to believe it probably was. The only contender for organizing this scheme that I am able to see would be Annas, the Jerusalem High Priest. He hated the Messianic sect and took every opportunity he had to destroy it in its infancy. Each of Annas’ sons, his son-in-law and his grandson took part in persecuting Messianic believers, or at least they officiated the high priesthood during a persecution of the Messianic sect, beginning in Jerusalem where they governed. It doesn’t take the mind of a nuclear physicist to figure out who the most likely suspect would be, if a conspiracy was, indeed, underway against the Messianic churches in the Diaspora.
Peter sought to encourage the believers by pointing to the salvation—eternal life—that awaited them at the coming of Jesus which was very near, or so the epistle implies (1Peter 1:3-7). The last days were come upon them and Peter told the churches to gird up the loins of their mind (1Peter 1:13), indicating the trial of faith was an attack affecting the minds of the believers. However, in what manner were their minds affected? Was it through false doctrine or was it in the sense that injustice tends to put those afflicted thereby in confusion?
It seems as we go further into Peter’s epistle that the trial by and large was from outside the church, but these matters may have at their root false brethren from within seeking to divide the flock by using the powers of the gentile government from the outside. At least some of what Peter writes is in code, because he says he wrote from Babylon (code word for Jerusalem – 1Peter 5:13 cf. Revelation 14:8 and 11:8), indicating he had to be careful how he wrote. If the letter fell into the wrong hands, there might have been trouble for the Jerusalem church. As much as was possible, the Jerusalem church had to be kept intact, because it was used to preach the Gospel throughout the Empire, through the pilgrims who came to worship at the Temple during the Holy Days—Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Believing pilgrims would return home, bringing their new faith to the synagogues throughout the Diaspora. The trial seemed to affect how one loved the brethren (1Peter 1:22), and was connected also with the glory of men (1Peter 1:24) that fades away, unlike the salvation that would have been realized shortly from God (1Peter 1:23, 25).
As I go through Peter’s first epistle, I hope to prayerfully come to an understanding of the intent of Peter’s words within the context of the times in which he wrote. My God help me to do this honestly that I may honor him.